Gen. Douglas M. Fraser, former commander in chief of the U.S. Southern Command, spoke at the Sanford School of Public Policy Wednesday evening about foreign policy in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The talk—co-sponsored by the Duke Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the American Grand Strategy Program—was titled “Continuing Security Challenges in Central and South America and the Caribbean: Drugs, Immigration, Disaster Relief and More.” It functioned as an open discussion between the audience and Fraser who fielded questions on topics ranging from Guantanamo Bay to China.

“The key security issue that crosses all of Latin America is what I call ‘transnational criminal networks,’” said Fraser.

He stressed his opinion that the solution to these problems is political and that the U.S. can play a supporting role.

"We have to be part of the solutions also," he said, noting that the primary market for drugs and victims of human trafficking is the United States.

Fraser emphasized that there is no conventional military threat from countries in the western hemisphere. Issues causing security concerns, however, are those that involve corruption, inequality income, poverty and lack of proper infrastructures in these countries.

"There is no silver bullet to solve this problem," he said. "We haven't solved criminality in the history of mankind. We need to put it in a place where local law enforcement can solve problems."

Fraser was the leader of the U.S. Southern Command between 2009 and 2013, a four-star general role, which gave him oversight over 1,200 personnel from all branches of the military as well as civilians from other agencies. He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1975 and held several other positions in the Air Force before his time as General.

“There is no American official who day to day has more responsibility for dealing with our interests in the western hemisphere than the General who leads SOUTHCOM," said Patrick Duddy, director of Duke Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, senior lecturing fellow at the Fuqua School of Business and a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela.

Duddy noted Fraser’s insights are important because of the broad purview of SOUTHCOM which has authority over many non-military functions such as the providing disaster relief and “inculcating a spirit of democracy and civilian control”.

The talk attracted both faculty and students interested in the topic, including some from other universities such as the North Carolina State University.

"What I found most interesting about the discussion was his commentary on the place of drugs within transnational criminal networks," said freshman Joseph Squillace. "He argued against the misconception that drug legalization is the panacea for large-scale, organized criminal activity by pointing out that criminal organizations can always find other illicit activities to fund their operations."